You get the conclusion to the Ed Brubaker / Michael Lark run on Daredevil. You get a preview of Daredevil under the guidance of Andy Diggle and Billy Tan. You get a bonus story (‘3 Jacks’) from Ann Nocenti and David Aja which is quite wonderful, and would easily stand in its own right as an issue of Daredevil. You get a Daredevil 500 issue cover retrospective. You get a gallery of Daredevils from various artists. This is one hell of a way to celebrate the end of the Brubkaer run and Daredevils longevity.
I am quite happy to admit that this is one of the best comic books i have ever read – everything that this creative team have been doing over the last few months comes to together in a near perfect resolution. They manage to finish up all the plot strands but open up a whole new story for Matt Murdoch for Diggle and Tan to work with. The story and art flow in a beautiful way, effortlessly going back many hundreds of years to Japan, and then go back and forth in more recent time, and there is never any jarring in those jumps. The final panel of the main story is dramatic, visually arresting, a closure and a new beginning.
To give away any of the plot would be churlish. It is just superb, and is a testament to the writing of Ed Brubaker (as if he needs references….) and the moody styling of Lark & co. They will be missed on this title, but have given Diggle more than enough to work with. Comic of the year? To be honest, it depends on what The Walking Dead come up with before the end of the year, but this will be very hard to beat…
It is in the little details – the chalk line around the removed corpse, along side the comment that the head was found some way from the body. Then you look again at the chalk mark that was made around the murder victim and then it registers that this was a decapitation. The comment that The Hands foot soldiers turn to ash when they are killed. Like I said – Little things, those tiny details that keep this title a rich and endlessly interesting one. It mixes the ‘normal’ life of Matt Murdock (which has completely crumbled into chaos) and the extraordinary life of Daredevil adeptly. You cannot see the join, there is no jarring of styles. The whole title is swathed in dim light, a grainy haze where the good get ‘got’ with depressing regularity, and the bad survive and thrive. Against this, Daredevil (and in the periphery, the likes of Frank Castle (aka Punisher)) pursue their agendas, vendettas and/or fight for right.
In this issue, as we near the end of the ‘Return of the King arc, new alliances are forged while others crumble away, and it is this latter development that poses a threat, unknown to those who believe to be working with others for a greater good. What I am trying to say is that Daredevil adopted a high risk strategy in deciding to ally himself with his greatest enemy. On top of that, all whom he loves are in very real danger. So its high tension time, each scenario right on the edge of blowing up. Then the issue ends, with the promise of issue 500. If I had to review this issue purely on its own merits, I would say that the come-on (in this case, the cover depicting a Lady Bullseye / Kingpin face-off) was a lot more exciting than the actual experience, but the quality of the title is so strong that you are completely immersed anyway.
As you probably know, issue 500 marks the end of the Brubaker / Lark involvement in the title, which is a real shame as he has made Daredevil vital and I know that there are comparisons with the Miller era, but they are valid. They have been on the title for over 3 years and will be missed, though I am sure Andy Diggle is going to surprise a lot of people and carry on with the high quality we have come to expect.
Anyway, while we are on the subject, check out the amazing cover for #500 (Daredevil is returning to its original issue numbering from now on…);